Monday, May 12, 2014

Istanbul 2014 - Suleymaniye Mosque

Date: 5th April 2014

The second stop we made after Yeni Camii/Spice Bazaar was at the famous Suleymaniye Mosque located on the Third Hill of Istanbul. We chose to walk instead of taking a public transport as the place look so near, yet so far to reach. With a guided map and directions by the locals, we reached the destination though it was rather a breathless climbs up to the hill. It was seen very near as directed by the locals. The truth was, my feet was bursting with angers due to a lack of stamina and regular exercise. I must take note to be mentally and physically fit for my next trip.

Courtyard of the mosque

View from the main entrance to the mosque

The Suleymaniye Mosque was completed 456 years ago, in use since 1558.It is 1 of the renown Ottoman imperial mosque, being the largest mosque in the city, and one of the best-known sights of Istanbul. It was built on the order of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, draw by the architectural genius of Mimar Sinan. The construction work began in 1550 and the mosque was finished in 1558.

The city directional sign is at it's best, you will not get lost

However, the hill does not look so friendly though :(

The vast religious complex blended Islamic and Byzantine architectural elements, combines tall, slender minarets with large domed buildings supported by half domes in the style of the Byzantine church Hagia Sophia. Hagia Sophia was once a mark of the Constantinople city but the mosque was built with an intent to surpass the Hagia Sophia glory.

Posing as soon as we entered through the rear entrance of the mosque

The design of the Suleymaniye displays the Sultan's self-conscious representation of himself as a 2nd Solomon, in references to the Dome of the Rock, which was built on the site of the Temple of Solomon. Emperor Justinian was recorded boast upon the completion of the Hagia Sophia by saying "Solomon, I have surpassed you!" The Suleymaniye, similar in magnificence to the preceding structures, asserts Sultan Suleyman's historical importance. The structure is nevertheless smaller in size than its older archetype, the Hagia Sophia.

Sultan Suleymaniya's mausoleum and member of the courts
In the garden behind the main mosque there are two mausoleums including the tombs of Sultan Suleiman I, his wife Roxelana, his daughter Mihrimah, his mother Dilaşub Saliha and his sister Asiye. The sultans Suleiman II, Ahmed II and Safiye, the daughter of Mustafa II, are also buried here. Just outside the mosque walls, to the north is the tomb of architect Sinan.

Similar case to Yeni Camii, Suleymaniye Complex was also ravaged by a fire in 1660 and was immediately restored by Sultan Mehmed IV. Part of the dome collapsed during 1766 earthquake. Subsequent repairs damaged what was left of the original decoration of Sinan (recent cleaning has shown that the Architect, Sinan had experimented the decor first with blue, before turning red the dominant color of the dome).

3 sisters discussing the world matter...hehe
During the World War I the courtyard was used as a weapons depot, and when some of the ammunition ignited, the mosque suffered another fire. Not until 1956 was it fully restored again.

Like the rest of Ottoman imperial mosques in Istanbul, the mosque itself is preceded by a monumental courtyard on the west side (see below 2 photos). The courtyard at the Suleymaniye is of exceptional grandeur with a colonnaded peristyle with columns of marble, granite and porphyry. At the 4 corners of the courtyard are the 4 minarets, a number only allowable to mosques endowed by a sultan (princes and princesses could construct two minarets; others only one). The minarets have a total of 10 galleries which by tradition indicates that Suleiman I was the 10th Ottoman sultan.

The main dome is 53 meters high and has a diameter of 27.5 meters. At the time it was built, the dome was the highest in the Ottoman Empire, when measured from sea level, but still lower from its base and smaller in diameter than that of Hagia Sophia.
Closer view of the courtyard

Foreign and local tourist having photo together in this magnificent place

The interior of the mosque is almost a square, 59 meters by 58 meters, forming a single vast space as can be seen from below photo. The dome is flanked by semi-domes, and to the north and south arches with tympana-filled windows, supported by enormous porphyry monoliths. The architect, Sinan decided to make a radical architectural innovation to mask the huge north-south buttresses needed to support these central piers. He incorporated the buttresses into the walls of the building, with half projecting inside and half projecting outside, and then hid the projections by building colonnaded galleries. There is a single gallery inside the structure, and a two-story gallery outside.

The interior decoration is subtle, with very restrained use of Iznik tiles. The white marble mihrab and mimbar are also simple in design, and woodwork is restrained, with simple designs in ivory and mother of pearl.

As with other imperial mosques in Istanbul, the Süleymaniye Mosque was designed as a külliye, or complex with adjacent structures to service both religious and cultural needs. The original complex consisted of the mosque itself, a hospital (darüşşifa), primary school, public baths (hamam), a Caravanserai, four Qur'an schools (medrese), a specialized school for the learning of hadith, a medical college, and a public kitchen (imaret) which served food to the poor. Many of these structures are still in existence, and the former imaret is now a noted restaurant. The former hospital is now a printing factory owned by the Turkish Army.

Kulliyah complex

Shops complex
We end our visit with a good lunch

The place is 1 of the most attractions visited by many foreign and local tourist. It provides many of the things that you would want to fulfill depending on your wish list. We were there for tulips festival and we were so lucky as the main yard was planted with beautiful tulips in bright and pastel color. Beside, it has a small cozy shopping areas selling local souvenirs (see above photo) and a place to eat. We had lunch at 1 of the restaurant up there before adjourned to our next destination, Fatih Mosque. I'm sharing some of the  lovely shots of the tulips garden at the time of our visit at a weather of 19 Celsius to end this entry. Enjoy the view...

Notes: research from Wikipedia
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